The White House advised health care reform critics Friday not to underestimate President Donald Trump’s deal-making prowess.
House Republicans delivered Trump his biggest legislative victory to date when they narrowly passed a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare on Thursday afternoon. The bill now moves to the Senate, where its fate is uncertain — but not in the eyes of the White House.
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“I think the one thing that you can be sure of is to never underestimate this president,” White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Friday in her first on-camera briefing. “I think he’s shown time and time again when he’s committed to something, it’s going to get done. He’s made no secret he’s committed to reforming the health care system.”
Rather than take up the House bill, the Senate is expected to write its own version. But Huckabee Sanders argued that while the White House expects “some” changes to occur in the Senate, “we expect the principles and the main pillars of the health care bill as it exists now to remain the same.”
“We’re focused on the big principles of the health care bill: lowering costs, creating a competitive environment, flexibility giving states the ability to make decisions within the health care system,” she said. “We don’t expect those things to change.”
Trump celebrated House Republicans’ “big win” Friday morning, tweeting that “we will have truly great healthcare” once the regulatory phase of the three-prong repeal process is complete. But the administration is still focused on getting past phase one.
Despite previous White House pressure to hold a vote in the House to give Trump a signature legislative win in his first 100 days, Huckabee Sanders said there’s no timeline for the Senate, which won’t move forward until the House legislation receives a score from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
“The president’s focused on getting it right, not getting it fast,” she said. “We’re taking the appropriate steps to make sure that the American people get the health care system that they deserve, and that’s the president’s commitment, not an artificial timeline.”
Trump, who was active in cajoling House Republicans to support the American Health Care Act, will continue to be engaged in the vote-getting process, Huckabee Sanders said.
“Obamacare is a disaster, and this isn’t a president who does things hands-off,” she said. “He’s fully engaged on the House side. I expect him to be fully engaged on the Senate side and make sure that we get the bill that the American people deserve.”
Senate Republicans can pass Obamacare repeal legislation with a simple majority through what’s called budget reconciliation, and Trump called on them to act in his weekly address earlier Friday.
“On Thursday, the House voted to repeal one of the worst job-killing laws of all. It’s called Obamacare — perhaps you’ve heard of it,” Trump said. “And now I’m calling on the Senate to take action. Repealing and replacing Obamacare will be a big, big win for the American people.”
Even with Thursday’s legislative victory in the House, however, the White House remains uncommitted to embracing the “Trumpcare” label.
“We’re not focused on labels. What this president wants to be remembered for is not the name that’s put on it but the person that got rid of Obamacare and put a system in place that actually worked for the American people,” Huckabee Sanders said. “That’s the type of legacy he’d like to be focused on, is being the president that actually reformed health care to benefit Americans instead of bankrupt them. And so call it what you want, but we’re calling it reform, and we’re calling it a system that works.”